When Bill and Dave lived up the street we had a great “work for food” program. They’d come down and fix or repair something for me and I’d make them dinner. Bill eventually got to the point where he figured out that the dinner menu was commensurate with the job that awaited them. He began asking what I planned to serve them before he arrived, then for instance if I said ” hamburgers on the grill”, he’d be prepared to fix a light switch or attach a new window box on the back porch….if I tempted them with a filet and shrimp, he’d assume they were going to hang a chandelier or snake out a sink. Once when I offered them lobster and prime rib, he queried ” what are we doing tonight…digging a well?”
As fate would have it, Dave and Bill went their separate ways and I’ve been left in the lurch. It took me months to convince Bill to paint for me…lured with Chicken Romano and Italian cuisine, but anything is better than me with a paint brush. When I was about 15 I was painting an area of our kitchen above the sink. My mother had been soaking a big pan or something in soapy water and warned me over and over to be careful. When I spilled the whole can of ceiling white into her dishwater my painting career screeched to a halt.
Now I can grow anything, decorate anything, pull off holiday extravaganzas, design outdoor shrines to mimic Lourdes, and dispense brilliant words of wisdom to all, but I cannot “fix” anything. For years I used an old hatchet with a loose head for a hammer….until a lesbian friend bought me a real one for Christmas. I am incapable of pounding a nail into anything…the nail always goes flying, I always hit my fingers, and I always use the wrong tool for a job.
My Father was no better than I am.
My Dad and I attempted to build a small, temporary extension to our dining room table for a big dinner many years ago. The only tools we could find were my hatchet and a hacksaw. ( now I just had to google “types of saws” to try to find out what the name of that thing was). My dad swore and “gave up” about nine times during the project, and we laughed about our lousy skills, but the ugly thing did make it through the dinner…and only collapsed when I took the table cloth off, and removed the books that I stuck under the legs because our measurements had been way off…naturally, since we used a 12 inch ruler to measure.
My partner and I did one major project together…constructing a wooden arbor in the backyard for Wisteria. It’s been up for about ten years, and is slowly deteriorating into a heap of broken lumber and twisted vines. It looks great in the summer, because you can’t see anything but the Wisteria. After the leaves fall it looks like something in an abandoned village.
Now I’ve spent a lot of time in classrooms as a student, I have a masters in Special Education and another in Psychology. I know about existential phenomenology and Object Relations, I know all the mysteries of the Rosary, and how to say I love you in Latin. I know what a cosign is, and how to diagram a sentence, BUT I do not know how to open the hood on my Suburu, or how to turn off the water if a pipe bursts. I try to fix everything with scotch tape, and often use the heel of my shoe when I need a hammer. When I was a Cub Scout my birdhouse was the ugliest one in Mrs Hoffman’s troop (den?). So I have to rely on the kindness of strangers for the simplest task…but ask me who was the Apostolic Delegate to the United States in 1958 and I will quickly respond ” Amleto Giovanni Cickannani “. So there.